Bold Predictions from the Most Accurate Experts

Posted by dave on August, 31st 2012

We recently held our 2nd annual FantasyPros Invitational, an invite-only expert league that represents the best-of-the-best fantasy football prognosticators in the business.
 
Only experts that have ranked in the top 15% of one of our accuracy studies were invited to play. Congrats to those that made the cut, and a special thank you to Andy Behrens for hosting the league (I guess it helps that he’s on the exclusive invite list).

 

Rather than asking the experts to recap their 20-team marathon draft (see the team rosters), I asked them to give us one bold prediction for 2012. Here’s what each expert had to say…

 

Russell Wilson ends the year as a Top 10 fantasy quarterback, beating out, among others, Robert Griffin III. And sparked by Wilson and the Seattle defense (seriously, go get this unit), the Seahawks win the NFC West.”
- Scott Pianowski, Yahoo! Sports

 

Matt Ryan will join the elite group of quarterbacks this year and finish in the top 5. A new offensive coordinator, a pass-friendly schedule, a pending Julio Jones breakout and a reduced role for running back Michael Turner will make it so.”
- Jason and Justin Sablich, The New York Times

 

“Dirk Koetter may have created a fantasy monster in Atlanta. The uptempo Falcons have enjoyed wild success in the preseason and boast one of the most dynamic stable of passing game weapons in Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers. With Michael Turner seeing the field less in 2012, Matt Ryan is poised to finish in the top four at QB, throwing for 4,800 yards and 40 TDs.”
- R.J. White – FF Café

 

“I’ll say that Joe Flacco outperforms Matt Ryan this season. Everyone is loving Matty Ice right now. As for Flacco, well … as Don Draper said to Michael Ginsberg in a recent “Mad Men” episode: “I don’t think about you at all.” But I believe Ryan and Flacco are basically equals in terms of talent. Ryan has better receivers, though Flacco’s receivers are very good. Flacco has a better offensive line. Both are playing for coaches who want to push the offensive tempo this year. Frankly, I don’t see a great deal of difference between the two players, so I’m going to bet that the coin fllip lands in Flacco’s favor.”
- Pat Fitzmaurice, Pro Football Weekly

 

Tim Tebow will finish as a top-12 fantasy quarterback. Terribly inaccurate and currently second on his team’s depth chart, a slow start by the Jets offense (did you see their preseason games?) and team (see their schedule?) could lead to an early-to-mid season transition from The Sanchize to Tebow. It doesn’t sound great, but a game of 150 passing yards and a score plus 50 rushing yards and a score (a reasonable Tebow stat line) is 21 fantasy points.  Do the math: 21 x’s 16 games = 336 points.  (Only five QBs had 300-plus fantasy points last year.) At a minimum, I can see Tebow being a top-12 fantasy quarterback from the time he becomes the starter until the end of the season.”
- Kevin Hanson, EDS Football

 

“Although we’ve been sort of trained to believe that Darren McFadden is incapable of staying healthy for 16 games, I think he is just as capable of playing  the full slate as any other NFL running back. It’s tough sledding for any back to make it unscathed through the NFL season, but I say he pulls a Matthew Stafford and not only plays 15 or more games this year, but he easily finishes among the top three fantasy backs with a solid shot of being the top dog in 2012.”
- Bob Henry, FootballGuys
 
 

“Falcons second year running back Jacquizz Rodgers will work his way into Michael Turner’s production, becoming a weekly flex play or RB2, especially in PPR leagues. He will earn 135 carries averaging 4.8 YPC, totaling 650 yards rushing with an additional 400 yards receiving on 45 receptions. The quick-footed, elusive and powerful Sproles/Jones-Drew-like back will combine for over 1,000 yards and score at least five touchdowns finishing inside the Top 20.”
- Jeff Haseley, FootballGuys

 

Michael Turner and BenJarvus Green-Ellis will do better than most anyone in the industry thinks. They’re Top 15 running backs. They’re not flashy but they’ll get something a lot of running backs won’t get: opportunities. They’re dominant parts in their offenses and will contend for lots of scores. I don’t care if it’s ugly, I’ll take big stats any way I can get them.”
- Dave Richard, CBS Sports

 

Lance Moore was WR34 last season, but missed two games and was on pace to finish WR26. He was WR26 in 2010 and WR13 back in 2008 when he caught 79 passes for 928 yards. Why is he going to break through in 2012 and finish in the top 20? Robert Meachem’s departure frees up 40+ targets in the Saints’ prolific offense, and Moore should benefit. His Fantasy Points / Target (1.54) ranked #8 in 2011 and due to his heavy use in the redzone. Meachem has always limited Moore’s upside and vice versa, so with the extra targets Moore should emerge as a solid WR2 with little downside. Consistently available in the 9th round of 12-team drafts, Moore is a great guy to grab as your 3rd or 4th wideout.”
- John Paulsen – 4for4

 

Brandon Lloyd finishes the season as a top five WR. There’s a lot of debate as to whether the targets will be there for Lloyd to produce as a WR1, and he’s going off the board in the WR2 range in most redraft leagues as a result. I’m not even going to make the Josh McDaniels argument here. The simple fact is Lloyd is darn good. He was a top five WR in most all fantasy formats in 2010, and that was with Kyle Orton as his QB. He now has Tom Brady throwing him the ball. Yes, Gronkowksi, Hernandez, and Welker will see their share of targets, but none of them are deep threats. Lloyd is one of the best deep ball receivers in the league, and he’s going to excel in the Patriots vertical passing game.”

- Jeff Ratcliffe, Pro Football Focus

 

“Ravens WR Torrey Smith will finish the season as a top 10 WR with over 1200 yards and double-digit touchdowns.”
- Josh Moore, 4for4

 

“As an IDP nut, I’m going the route of the defensive player. San Diego Charger LB, Donald Butler, will build on his 2011 campaign and finish in most tackle-heavy formats as a top 10 LB. Butler will finish with 135 total tackles and 3 sacks, cementing himself as an IDP force in 2012.”
- Mike Woellert, Pro Football Focus

 

Justin Smith will reach double-digit sacks and break into the top 10 fantasy defensive lineman for the first time in his career. The arrival of Aldon Smith as a pass-rushing threat means it is not so simple to scheme Smith out of a game and has allowed the 49ers use of him to be more aggressive. He saw an big increase in his pass-rushing snap frequency from 61.2% in 2010 and 59.9% in 2009 to 67.1% last season, and his relentless motor means he is always in and around the quarterback disrupting plays. He’s a great pick-up as a late round DE2 or DE3.”
- Ross Miles, Pro Football Focus
 
A big thanks to our FantasyPros Invitational experts for sharing their bold predictions. We’ll be following them all year and we’ll check in on how these bold predictions are shaping up during the season. I hope everyone enjoys the final weekend before NFL kicks into full gear.
 
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